The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Published by Scholastic
Publish Date: October 18, 2011
Source: Audio – Audible purchase,
Book – Kindle purchase
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen. -(summary from Goodreads)
My Thoughts: One of the definitions (here) for the word “splendid” is excellent or being out of the ordinary, and that is exactly my thoughts on choosing to end out my year with The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. There are actually no other words that can describe it better, so I’ll just stick with splendid.
WHY DIDN’T I READ THIS BOOK SOONER?
The Scorpio Races is one of those books that I’ve had sitting on my Kindle for a while now. It was on sale ages ago, so I grabbed it and knew I’d eventually read it. Life happens, you guys, and we push books back…and back…and back. I’d read over and over where people would just rave about this book. Everyone loves it! You guys love it. OF COURSE, you do – it’s Maggie S! Still, it sat there comfortably on my Kindle, hanging out with all of the other books, waiting for me to start it. (Y’all know what I’m talking about…)
So anyway, I’m reading blogs one day and I come across this post on Hannah’s blog So Obsessed With (one of my favorite blogs, love love love it). Hannah has this thing about her that makes me want to dramatically shove every book far, far away from me and immediately start the one she just talked about, pretty much every time. She just does. She had ALLCAPS in her blog post, first of all. But the thing that got me – really got me – was that she talked about the setting as character. I left a little comment about how I wanted to read The Scorpio Races SOON….then I think she tweeted me about how I should definitely read it soon…then I think some other people saw the tweet and encouraged me to read it ASAP…and then it was ON.
You guys, there are few things more fun to me than when my reading friends jump on a fun, encouraging, I-love-this-book thing – an Oh-my-gosh-Asheley-you-have-to-read-it-NOW! thing. I decided that night on Twitter that I would end my year with The Scorpio Races. It probably seems very anti-climactic to everyone else, but believe me, it was very dramatic to me as I can sometimes be very melodramatic where my reading is concerned. I was SO. EXCITED.
My plan to make it my last book of 2012 had to change a bit.
1. I started reading The Scorpio Races on my Kindle and made good progress, loving it. I was invested in the characters, the setting, the mythology, the story as a whole. I hated having to stop reading for any reason at all. But I was on a New Year’s vacation/road trip, you see, and I was sort of leaving out my guy as he was driving. The second, the very nanosecond, he expressed interest in the book, I sampled the audiobook and downloaded it. In other words, I started the book again. Why? BECAUSE: The audiobook is wonderful. Even though I was far, far ahead in the Kindle version, I did my usual thing – I went back and followed along with the audiobook. This is the first reason why I was much slower reading the book than I intended, and I am totally okay with that – because I shared my reading experience with someone else, someone new to YA (yay!!) and also because I got to experience this beautiful book via audiobook.
2. There are some books that I read fairly quickly and love. Most books fall into this category. There are some books – the more intense, emotional books – that I tend to read slowly for various reasons. It’s like sipping hot coffee or savoring delicious dessert. Or…sometimes the intensity is just too much and I can only take little bits and pieces at a time and I have to read slowly.
In the case of this book, I simply wanted to draw my reading experience out a little longer. YES, I said that I wanted to finish my year out with The Scorpio Races – that was my goal. BUT while I was on the road, I amended my goal to START MY 2013 with The Scorpio Races, and I’m totally okay with that. In fact, as I said earlier, I think that it was a splendid idea. It was just as splendid a plan as it would have been to finish it a day earlier – only better – because I got to linger in the delicious loveliness of the island of Thisby for a day longer; I got to experience the actual Scorpio Races slowly rather than in a hurry; I was able to read ahead and re-read chapters, and then listen to them still again as the audiobook struggled to keep up with the pacing of my eyes on my Kindle. There is no shame here, folks. This book is meant to be savored and rushing it would have been a disservice to the story.
“I reeealllyyy want to know why everyone loves this book so much!”
I get it now. That is all.
For a person like me – a person that gains so much from books that are heavy on well-developed characterization and setting – this book is like the proverbial pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Each of the characters is perfection, and they are all a part of me now – the good guys and the bad guys – because I have created a visual image for them all. They move a certain way, they look a certain way, the winds off of the ocean blow their hair just so. I see their mud-stained boots, their blood-stained clothes, their tired faces. I see the way they see each other. If the characters are incredible, the relationships between them are even better. Every relationship on this island, be it between people or between a person and their horse, is one that is so fully-formed that a flat page can barely contain it. Every one, so perfect.
My mind has created a perfect island that can only be Thisby. I can imagine the smell, the colors, the sounds of everything. The world-building doesn’t have to be large because my blogger-friend Hannah was absolutely correct – the island of Thisby is its own character. It begs to be heard and seen and smelled separately and apart from the people and horses on and around it. I cannot describe it to anyone other than to say you have to read the book for yourself and let Maggie Stiefvater help you visualize this place.
If I use the word “perfect” too much in this blog post, I do not apologize. There is such perfection on these pages. The story is incredible and wonderful and all things excellent. I love that it is written in alternating points-of-view from the perspectives of both Puck Connolly and Sean Kendrick. I love that Puck’s character is given a voice that is young, annoyed with her lot in life, and naive about much of what goes on around her. She doesn’t understand why things have to be the way things are in many cases (like with her brother, Gabe) and as readers, we are privy to so much information that is kept from her. This is probably for the best because a heart like Puck’s is raw and untamed yet still fierce and brave. I love her character – her tenacity and her thoughts and the way she looks. She is perfect.
But Sean Kendrick…Sean Kendrick is a like a mystery. Young Sean understands the ferocious sea like no other. He has an uncanny and dangerous knack for being able to calm the monsters known as capaill uisce, or water horses: it’s almost like he can communicate with them. He has an unspeakable tie to the land. He walks with a sense of purpose, always. He speaks very little. Everyone knows him. There’s just something about Seak Kendrick. He is written so perfectly. I have never been one to to out of my way to read books with animals in them, but the relationship between Sean and his horse, Corr – I have no words.
I mentioned earlier that after reading the book for a while, I bought the audiobook and restarted. I would read, then listen to the part that I had just read. I did this over and over until I finished the book. Audiobook readers: this has to be one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever heard. The narrators are PERFECT for their parts. Steve West voices Sean Kendrick’s POV chapters and Fiona Hardingham voices Puck Connolly’s POV chapters. Steve West has a wonderful voice for Sean – he is believable as the character. His voice sounds strong and confident and yet still and quiet, if that’s possible. And Fiona Hardingham is as perfect as anyone can be for a fiesty, fierce, testy lil’ heroine like Puck. She had me chuckling a few times and they both had me tearful and flat-out crying in more than one instance.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater in audiobook format is published by Scholastic Audio. It is 12 hours, 6 minutes, Unabridged. This audiobook won the 2012 Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production and I completely understand why. It is absolutely incredible – wondrous to listen to and I recommend it wholeheartedly to any audiobook listener.
I have no words, still. Please read this if you haven’t. I’m so glad I came across Hannah’s blog post, which finally struck the right chord, which finally ignited the Twitter conversation that made me resolve to make this book be my last of 2012/first of 2013. It was perfect. It was splendid.
I recommend this book for any fans of Maggie Stiefvater, because we all know she has a way with words. So lyrical, she is! I also recommend this book for fans of legends and mythology, fans of great characterization, a fantastic setting, wonderful relationships, and perfect stories. The Scorpio Races can be enjoyed by fans of YA, but I think fans of adult fiction would find that they enjoy it as well.
**Sidenote: The audiobook pronounces capaill uisce like “cap-ull ish-ka” – I never would’ve figured that out on my own.
Excellent Setting (Setting-as-Character)
Romance: No triangle, Very slow-burn
Award-Winning Reads: 2012 Printz Honor
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
I’m about to explode!
Has anyone heard the audiobook?